Chuck Hagel's Jewish Critics Relent After Nod

Mainstream Groups Won't Oppose Obama's PIck for Pentagon

Military Man: President Obama introduced ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel as a hard-headed patriot. He might have gained the upper hand in his battle to win confirmation as the next Pentagon chief.
getty images
Military Man: President Obama introduced ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel as a hard-headed patriot. He might have gained the upper hand in his battle to win confirmation as the next Pentagon chief.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 08, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

At the White House and among Senate Democrats, the feeling Monday was of guarded optimism, as they sensed Jewish objection to Hagel has significantly subsided. “At the end of the day,” said another White House official, “it seems as if folks walked up to the abyss, looked over, and decided that it is something they will not go to the mat for.”

The officials acknowledged, however, that confirmation hearings will be tough and that Hagel will be questioned on his views regarding Iran, Israel and Hamas. Hagel himself already launched his damage control campaign with an interview to the Lincoln Journal Star in which he vowed to “set the record straight” and to fight “falsehoods and distortions” about his record. He argued that there is “not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israeli.”

But the battle is far from being over. While the Jewish mainstream may have chosen a practical route of avoiding public criticism in order to ensure future relations with Hagel, groups on the right and left ends of the community are still deeply involved in the fight. Hagel has won ringing endorsements from J Street and Americans for Peace Now as well as a cautious and somewhat belated show of support from the National Jewish Democratic Council.

On the right, attacks on Hagel nomination only intensified following Obama’s formal announcement. Leading the pack were the Republican Jewish Committee and the Emergency Committee on Israel, which launched a website dedicated to taking on Hagel because of his positions regarding the Middle East.

“Tell your Senator Chuck Hagel is too extreme to be Secretary of Defense,” the Emergency Committee urges its supporters, conveniently offering a link with the senators’ contact information and suggested talking points, including: “Hagel’s history of making reckless, anti-Semitic and anti-gay remarks have drawn overwhelming fury from Jewish and gay-rights groups.”

“It is OK for Jewish groups to say they have concerns, but what they shouldn’t do is say that he is disqualified because one comment or another,” said Joel Rubin, director of policy and government affairs at the Ploughshares Fund and a supporter of Hagel’s nomination. He noted, however, that an open discussion during the confirmation hearing on Hagel’s views on Israel should bring him to clarify his views.

“If done in a constructive way, they’ll have the ear of the next secretary of defense,” Rubin said.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.